It’s a #BookBirthday! “Once Upon Another Time” is here, with a DUAL-INTERVIEW: Charles Ghigna and Andrés Landazábal!

All images © 2021 Beaming Books, all rights reserved

Ladies and gentlemen…we have publication!!

ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME (Beaming Books) is officially here, and today the official blog tour – featuring TEN awesome bloggers (well, nine awesome bloggers and me, ha!) – arrives at the ol’ Triple-R! I’m offering a FREE, PERSONALLY-SIGNED COPY OF THE BOOK to give away, too – details later on in this post!


2/25:      Ellen Leventhal:
3/1:        Maria Marshall:
3/2:        Matt Forrest Esenwine: 
3/3:        Jan Godown Annino at Bookseed Studio:
3/4:        Celebrate Picture Books: (will begin giveaway on 3/5)
3/5:        Maria Marshall #PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday):
3/5:        KidLit411 – Charles Ghigna interview:
3/5:       Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook:
3/9:      Erin Dealey
3/10:     Melissa Stoller:
3/16:     Kellee Moye at Unleashing Readers:
5/5:       Andrew Hackett:

Today also happens to be the NEA’s Read Across America Day, and I’m celebrating by sharing the book with 12 different schools across the country! These students get to be the very first kids in the world to read our book – plus, each school will receive a free copy of ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME, courtesy of Beaming Books.

Before we get to my dual-interview with my co-author, Charles Ghigna, and illustrator Andrés Landazábal, I do want to take a moment and thank our author and illustrator friends for their kind words of support on our Amazon page and the back cover. It was extremely generous of them to share their opinons of our work for all the world to see.

We’re also grateful for the American Library Association’s Booklist Online review, which includes the following:

“Beautiful images of long ago come together with lyrical text to transport readers to a past that is almost forgotten but that we would benefit to remember…a necessary addition to picture-book collections.”

Wow…a ‘necessary addition?’ Talk about humbling. Thank you, Booklist!

Now, then, I thought it might be a little different to interview both of my collaborators today; most book interviews are one-on-one, but why do normal? I wanted to allow both Charles and Andrés to share their thoughts about our book.

Charles Ghigna
(photo courtesy Scott Pierce)

Charles (aka, Father Goose®) is known to live in a tree house in Alabama and is the author of more than 100 award-winning books from Random House, Disney, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Charlesbridge, and many other publishers. His poems have appeared in magazines from ‘The New Yorker’ and ‘Harper’s’ to ‘Cricket’ and ‘Highlights for Children.’

Andrés Landazábal

For his part, Andrés is not just an illustrator but also a production designer, art director, and animator from Colombia. His work has appeared in animation films, tv shows, and print companies. Andrés says that reading classic illustrated children’s books at a young age instilled in him a love for drawing and painting…and it shows!

Now, Charles and I met on Facebook many years ago and, like many of us, I really loved his ability to write beautiful imagery in a very simple style – which is not an easy task. The simpler the words or phrases, the harder they are to write, trust me. 

It was, therefore, a thrill to be able to work with such an accomplished gentleman as Mr. Goose!

First of all, thank you both for taking the time to chat – and thank you, Charles, for your initial 4 stanzas that set this whole ball rolling! As someone who was just starting out at that point with no publishing credits, you took a big chance of working with me, and I appreciate that.

A little backstory: you wrote the first 4 stanzas of the book back in 2012 but weren’t sure where to go with them; you posted them on your blog and said if anyone had any ideas, you’d welcome the chance to work together. You were overwhelmed by the number of replies, but I wasn’t surprised at all – you’re Father Goose, fer cryin’ out loud! Who wouldn’t want to write a book with you??

So, what made you decide to ask an unknown writer his opinion of your stanzas, and if he had any ideas for a narrative? Why me?

CG: Not only was I surprised to see so many submissions to my request for a possible co-author, I was also surprised and pleased by the quality of the work. I read some very fine samples from some very fine poets, but yours immediately stood out and caught my attention. Your ideas were intriguing and your writing style was compatible to mine. It was an easy choice. So off we went on our journey into this wonderland of Once Upon Another Time.

Well, I’m certainly grateful you liked the premise! I also recall you saying you were surprised at how well our writing styles meshed…I did try to deliberately tailor my writing to better match yours, but I have to say it wasn’t all that difficult because our styles were more similar than either had realized. Do you think that helped alleviate any concerns you might have had about doing this collaboration?

CG: Yes, your writing style played a big part in my decision to have you join me on this one. I admire many of the other poets’ styles as well, but yours seemed perfect for this story. Readers should also keep in mind that as a narrative picture book, we didn’t have the luxury of writing several distinct poems, each in our own voices on each of their own spreads; every line needed to sound like it was written in the same “voice,” so to speak, to maintain the book’s continuity.

Were you as surprised as I was that the revision process of adding lines, removing lines, changing words, etc. was as easy as it turned out?

CG: Yes, after a few emails back and forth, we both seemed to have entered a zone together with the story. Our direction was clear, our dedication to the story was strong, and our willingness to give and take made it an easy, fun process. I think we inspired each other and raised each other’s game. The writing came so quick and smooth, it seemed as though the story was writing itself. It was! Good stories are like that. The best a writer can do it hang on and follow where the writing wants to take you. It also helps to have a good editor like Naomi Krueger to guide us along and to help fine tune our final drafts.

One of illustrator Andrés Landazábal’s favorite scenes from the book

I have to admit, knowing I was writing a book with the inimitable and highly-esteemed Father Goose was a daunting and intimidating prospect, and looking back at how easily it came together was probably the biggest surprise in the process for me; what surprised you the most?

CG: As mentioned, I enjoyed seeing how we challenged each other to make the writing as rich and memorable as possible, yet letting the story tell itself without calling too much attention to the language, not an easy task for two writers who are so in love with the sounds and nuances of the language itself.

Writing the book was certainly a learning process for me, as I was able to witness in real time your thought process when choosing words and lines and moving a narrative along. We both had very specific reasons for choosing one word over another – and while we disagreed occasionally here or there, we always understood and accepted the integrity of the other’s decision. So was the process of this collaboration different from any others you’ve done?

CG: I’ve only been a part of five collaborations so far, and recently started another new one. Each collaboration is different. Each one presents its own challenges. Our collaboration on Once Upon Another Time went remarkably smooth, partly due to our styles being so compatible.

My very first collaboration was a collection of holiday poems with my wife, Debra Ghigna. That book presented a few more challenges than ours and took a lot longer to write. Our good friends kiddingly said we were going to either have a really good book, or a really good divorce. Ha! I’m happy to report that Debra and I are still happily married. In fact, my second collaboration with her, Barn Storm, became a popular title in the Random House Step-in-Reading series. 

The only other collaboration I’ve had published is Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (POW! Kids Books, 2018) with my friend and critique partner Deborah Bruss, which was a fun, rollicking rhymer written with a critique partner whom I could visit in person anytime I wanted. With you in Alabama and me in New Hampshire, that wasn’t really an option! Do you feel that was an obstacle, or did the lack of face-to-face interaction help you focus on the tasks at hand?

CG: I think the objective distance of writing via email gave us both more breathing room to gather our own thoughts and to take our time to see how what we’ve written fits together as a whole. What we might have missed on the personal level, was more than compensated by simply focusing on the writing.

I’ve told numerous people that Once Upon Another Time is a lesson in stick-to-it-iveness, as it was turned down by more than 25 publishers before getting enthusiastically picked up by editor Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books in 2019. For those keeping score, that’s TEN YEARS from Charles’ first 4 stanzas to the book finally seeing the light of day…whew! Have any of your books ever taken that long?

CG: Whenever I’m asked how long it took me to write a book, I tell them my age. The book I’m working on right now took me 74 years. Whenever I’m asked how long it takes to get a manuscript published, I tell them forever. Some of my books have taken a year or two to find a good home. Some have taken forever.

Ha, I know what you mean. Whenever someone asks me how long it takes to write a book, I tell them the worst answer possible: “as long as it takes!” (They often aren’t amused, ha!)

Andrés, I’d like to turn to you and thank you again for your beautifully impressive work…you did an outstanding job!

AL: I am very glad I could contribute to yours and Charles’ book! It really was fresh and magical to work on it! The manuscript itself was so beautiful; it was “easy” to feel inspired by and being able to come up with nice illustrations, really.

I’ve mentioned earlier, Charles wrote the first few lines in 2012 before I completed the rough draft a couple of years later – and then after revising & polishing it, we went through 25 rejections before our editor, Naomi Krueger, picked it up! So it’s been a long time coming, but well worth it, and I can’t imagine any better illustrations than what you’ve provided…you really gave the book an “updated classic” sort of tone, with scenes that are serene and pastoral while still vibrant and full of life.

AL: I’m a sucker for nature and landscapes! And what a journey the manuscript and you two went through…that is why I think it turned out so magical. And just like you said, everything was “well worth it” for the project!

This will be a nearly-impossible question to ask, Andrés, but what would you say is your favorite spread?

AL: I like very much the spread with the little girl (and the cat) looking through the window at this busy cityscape, which is filled with vehicles and lights and pollution. I like it because somehow, it portrays – in a way – our daily lives since the beginning of the pandemic, which is under lockdowns and what have you, but it also reminded us that it is kind of not fun at all to go back to that normal we are used to, which is the pollution, and the racket. It makes one feel like, “I’d rather stay at home!” What a conundrum! But that is how tough life gets.

Now, from a story point, it was a very fun illustration to make, because of the busy-ness of it, but at the same time the romantic and poetic it gets, which really is what made me feel with every single of the illustrations. But that “feeling” felt the most, especially with this one piece.

Any other spreads that speak to you, or of which you’re particularly proud?

AL: The children at their backyard admiring nature, and underneath there is this laid-out dinosaur bones – I thought that was a terrific story beat! And the other one, one of the landscapes where there is a deer and a mama bear with her cub running in the distance! That was a fun one, too.

The illustrations almost look like watercolors. Was there a reason you chose digital as your media?

AL: The thing is, I wanted so badly to make this book traditional, but “time” wasn’t on my side! So I was very picky when choosing the digital brushes, so the illustrations ended having that “traditional” feeling.

I think it worked in your favor, Andrés, because they are so vibrant and modern, but still with that soft, traditional sort of tone. Well done!

Thank you both for spending a few minutes commiserating about our first collaboration – I hope it’s not our last! I remember Charles telling me once that he was my biggest fan, and that was before I’d even signed any contracts…so I’m glad he’s stuck with me.

Congratulations on a fine-looking book, my friends. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!

~ ~ GIVEAWAY!! ~ ~

Would you like a personally-signed copy of ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME? How about TWO?? I have two copies I’ll give away, with two ways to enter: leave a comment below, and/or share this blog post on Twitter and use the hashtags #giveaway and #2021BookBlast! Two drawings, two ways to win! I’ll announce a blog winner on Friday, March 19, so be sure to enter by 5pm EST on Thursday, March 18, and I’ll announce the Twitter winner at the end of the month. Good luck!



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36 thoughts on “It’s a #BookBirthday! “Once Upon Another Time” is here, with a DUAL-INTERVIEW: Charles Ghigna and Andrés Landazábal!

      1. Dana M.

        This book looks beautiful! I love the pictures and your message to enjoy time outdoors without phones. I’d love to read this with my daughter and niece!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Joyce Ray

      Wonderful interview with all three book creators. I liked Charles’s comment about letting the story tell itself without the language getting in the way. Sometimes that’s a challenge, for sure! Congratulations! The art is as beautiful as the words.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. #giveaway, #bookblast2021

    I would love to have a copy of this book for the library I just retired from! I love the story of your collaboration. It gives me great hope and once again shows how anything is possible, if you believe. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for putting this three-way interview together, Matt! As Andres stated, this book is “magical” and it was an honor and a joy to help create that magic with you. Already looking forward to our next book project. Thanks again for putting up with the old goose to make our ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME such a timely little classic. So proud of you and all the work you do.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Poetry Friday: Celebrating ANOTHER #BookBirthday with Lita Judge – Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  4. janetfrencksheets

    We adults need to “leave behind the phones and screens, and take a step outdoors,” too. (Yes, I recognize the irony of writing that while I’m staring at a screen!) Those illustrations are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing the story behind your story.


  5. Jennifer Essad

    What an amazing Adventure for you and Charles to see your creative writing (story telling) and illustrations. Children’s books are enjoyed by all ages, I can imagine how satisfying it is to see a finished project, especially watching us all enjoy them. Thank you for offering this #giveaway #2021BookBlast


  6. sammieqsinclair

    I have been captivated by this book from the second I saw it available for preorder! And reading the story behind it just adds another layer of magic to it all. Congratulations on a such a fabulous collaboration!


  7. Pingback: New Book: Once Upon Another Time – Kidlit603

  8. Joyce Ray

    Wonderful interview with all three book creators. I love Charles’s comment about letting the story tell itself without the language getting in the way. Congratulations! The art is as beautiful as the words.


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